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A few weeks ago, I joined 20 of my fellow governors in a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to repeal the Biden administration’s COVID vaccine mandate for our military, and today I’d like to provide an update on our request.
In August of last year, President Biden directed United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to impose a COVID vaccine mandate on the men and women of our armed forces. Since that time, the National Guard has missed its recruiting target by 10 percent, and 7,500 members have left the service. The United States Army also missed its recruiting target by 25 percent, falling short of their target by 15,000 recruits.
As of November of this year, over 8,000 active members of the military have been discharged since the implementation of the mandate. It’s clear that this overbearing requirement has put our nation’s military readiness at risk and created a national security concern.
In Arkansas, we took a different approach. I never imposed a mandate for vaccines because I trust people to make the best decision for their health and the health of their family. Instead of mandates, I chose to educate.
I went to 15 cities around the state to hold town hall meetings to answer questions from Arkansans. I held these events with my public health advisors and local health care providers to ensure that specific medical questions about the vaccine could be answered. And yes, I encouraged people to understand the COVID vaccine and to take the vaccine.
Throughout the course of my conversations, I was reminded of how damaging a vaccine mandate could be. Unfortunately, we’ve seen our concerns become a reality because of the COVID vaccine mandate in our armed forces.
While the damage has been done from the President’s decision, I want to applaud the members of Congress who recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act, the annual funding legislation for our military. This bill not only funds our military, it also revokes the COVID vaccine mandate. The House passed the defense authorization bill with a bipartisan vote by a margin of 350-80, and the Senate approved the bill 83-11. The vote on this bill and provision will ensure we have a military that is ready to face our adversaries whenever that time may come. I urge the President to sign the defense authorization bill and to end the particular COVID vaccine mandate.
We owe the men and women of our military a great debt for their service, and they do not need to be saddled with unnecessary mandates that only harm their readiness.